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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 5, 2009 5:10pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: DARK STAR 1968 - Part Two

(Sorry, the end of the piece cut off!)

On 12/31/68 they played a Dark Star>St Stephen>Eleven>Lovelight suite, and taped it in the first live 16-track recording. Unfortunately the tape seems to have turned out distorted, so they taped over it at the January '69 Avalon shows. (And, when some of those recordings were screwed up too, they taped over a few of those 16-tracks at the Fillmore the next month.)
They had decided to record a live album in late '68 - with the Aoxomoxoa sessions going nowhere fast as they overdubbed and re-recorded and redubbed and remixed, a live release was an obvious, quick and easy solution to get the record company off their backs for a while. They'd never been able to match the excitement of their live show in the studio (despite trying on the first two albums), but with a live album they could show the world what they really sounded like.
When asked way back in April '67 about capturing the Dead's live sound, Garcia noted, "You can't do it in a studio." But he theorized: "If you recorded us live, like at the Fillmore, maybe after two or three months....we'd start to get good cuts, good enough for an album in terms of how clean they were and how much we liked the performance on them. It would be such an expensive undertaking, and long...."
Recording shows for the Anthem album in early '68 had given them experience in mixing and selecting live material, and proved to be far less long & expensive than studio work - so by the end of the year they felt ready to put out a show on its own. They were well aware of the difference between 'flat' soundboard recordings and the huge echo of the guitars bouncing around the theater, so on the Anthem tour they'd set up 'roomsound' mikes to capture the full sound (I think on Live/Dead they added echo as well).
Garcia said in December '68, "What would be nicest would be to take one complete show with no editing and just say here it is, man.... And on the chance that the perfect night might happen sometime, we record." (Weir added, "And invariably the really good, perfect performances are never on tape. Which is, of course, the way it should be.")

This brings us to the end of 1968 and the dawn of the Live/Dead era. I can't leave you hanging there though, so I'll mention some of the changes Dark Star went through in January '69 before Live/Dead was recorded.
Garcia: "You can't play the way the Grateful Dead plays without working at it. It's not something that just happened to us. It didn't happen overnight, either. There was a long, slow process that brought that into being."
Dark Stars continued to be very diverse - they all follow the same structure established in late '68, but each one is handled differently. The tempo was slowed down considerably, which gave Dark Star a heavier, more reflective feel - with more room for Weir and Lesh to play in, it became more like a classical chamber piece. Late '68 Stars tended to be very dense, as the music rushed by - now musical thoughts are extended longer. Constanten is sometimes too quiet to be heard well, but when he's there, he contributes a delicate baroque-gothic mood unique to early '69. He still plays Pigpen's riff in the first few bars (it would stay there until summer '69), but then leaves it for freestyle accompaniment. (As for the drummers, I don't hear much of that scratcher, but I do hear congas which I don't recall from '68 - maybe it's Pigpen?)
Garcia pursues his new echo-drenched style - he doesn't rely so much on the constant stream of run-on notes that characterized '68, but uses more space in his playing. His technique has expanded, and he draws from a wider palette of shifting tones - the Sputnik jam, for instance, has been built up until now it can pass through several phases of fingerstyle chiming. Garcia thinks 'outside the notes' more, and uses more extraneous sounds like feedback - sometimes he enters these pure abstract sheets of sound.
The dynamics in the jams are more pronounced, and they can drop from a very loud passage to a quiet one, and shift back again. They frequently dig into tense, explosive passages, as Garcia hangs onto one note for life as Lesh & Weir churn up and burst beneath him. But they can also use pauses, as they hover in dramatic silence for a bit. Sometimes there will be long periods where Garcia doesn't play while the others groove on the theme, then he screams back in - a jazzy technique.
January '69 Stars are about the same length as in late '68, generally about 12-15 minutes. The breakthrough comes in the Philadelphia shows of February 14-15, when suddenly Dark Star breaks the 20-minute barrier.... But that is a story for another day. A lot more could be said about Dark Star, but I'll have to leave it at that.

As always, feel free to copy and repost in other forums....

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Poster: William Tell Date: Aug 6, 2009 1:58pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: DARK STAR 1968 - Credenza Awards Awarded

Hey LiA, I come back from a brief trip and find the FORUM running in perfect order, with this FIVE Credenza award post of yours to prove it...thanks.

I focused on your comments with respect to the "black hole" which we have spoken of before, and the StSt's that are hidden within that gap! Damn.

Agree with all you said about the June month for the few we have that have the reprise of the last verse, and that 6-14 is just an amazing version to which the two from the Mystery Disks come close, but no cigar in terms of intensity.

I use that one regularly, along with OOne from 12-29 to show just how amazing Jerry was.

Anyhow, thanks again. This just goes to show that PMs are pretty much worthless...

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Poster: luvvdubz73 Date: Nov 3, 2010 7:10am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: DARK STAR 1968 - Part Two

digging back into the 60's...and found this thread to be a great jumping off point....oh to be robert hunter sitting in his cabin out in rio, listening to the dead make the leap into a new realm for rock music....the 9/67 sessions caught on tape by chance illustrate this leap perfectly...thank you for the wonderful essay.

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Poster: Miss Divine Date: Aug 5, 2009 11:28pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: DARK STAR 1968 - Part Two

This is why I come here....many thanks for covering a period and tune that I love the most. The 68 DS had that higher tempo that I really like and Jerry's guitar sound was so gorgeous as well.

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Aug 6, 2009 10:20am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: DARK STAR 1968 - Part Two

Wow . Really interesting ! Some of the stuff I knew, some I didn't . Great to see it all in one place , and throughly, and thoughtfully put together .
Thanks .

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Poster: boltman Date: Aug 6, 2009 3:50pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: DARK STAR 1968 - Part Two

Thanks LiA. Brilliant and insightful. Gives me nights full of Dark Stars to listen to. Born and raised in and about SF, Live/Dead and Dark Star>St. S>Eleven in particular got me on the bus, never to get off. As a result DS has remained an enigmatic favorite. It set me up for Miles Davis, Coltrane, Monk, Ornette Coleman and Bird as my outlook expanded. While I have always felt the 70's to be my most comfortable fit, for the past year, the 60's have been calling and this just confirms the need to really focus on 68 and 69. Thanks again!

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Poster: Ernie Bo-Peep Date: Aug 5, 2009 10:21pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: DARK STAR 1968 - Part Two

Thanks, a great read.

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